An interview with Suleka Sun-Lindley, Proprietor and Executive Chef
Suleka’s love of cooking began 47 years ago when her mother and sister opened a restaurant in Thailand as their family business. Her entrepreneurial mother began with a street cart selling noodles in front of their house as a means to support their family.
The family eventually moved to Sacramento and opened Thai Basil in 1994. Using a winning combo of family recipes plus her mother’s philosophy of using ‘fresh, local, seasonal’ ingredients, Thai Basil has enjoyed a stellar reputation for nearly 25 years. It was the first local Thai restaurant to offer both vegan and gluten-free options. Suleka took over Thai Basil when her mother moved back to Thailand.
Her vision for opening VEG Café was inspired by an increasing customer base asking for vegan and gluten-free options; and was further influenced through traveling, yoga, meditation, and her interest in Aryuveda. She wanted VEG to have an exclusively vegan/ vegetarian focus from the get-go: “when you take the meat out, every other flavor is the star.” Through the creative and flavorful menu at VEG, she hopes to encourage more people to eat plant-based for the benefit of both the environment and animals.
She is particularly proud of her staff, “they do an amazing job!” and trains them to offer customer service with her philosophy of “be genuine; be yourself.”
As far as her specialty, Suleka states “Soup is my thing—I could eat soup every day!” She also really enjoys being innovative and experimenting with new products. She likes coming up with creative prix fixe special occasion menus, as well.
Suleka frequently returns to Thailand to visit her mother, and checks in with her aunt for new recipes as well as taking local cooking classes. There is a vegan center in her hometown, where she volunteers during her visits.
Her dreams for future endeavors as a chef include offering food & culture ‘immersion’ travel tours that would include yoga, cooking classes, and excursions to local restaurants. She would also like to offer cooking classes for young teens, teaching basic kitchen skills and cooking ‘from scratch.’
We are thrilled to have VEG and Thai Basil as annual participants in Vegan Chef Challenge events, and look forward to Suleka’s fresh & creative vegan menu items! Every year, her featured Vegan Chef Challenge menu items are highly popular among diners. VEG recently took first place for their vegan Impossible Burgers during the Great Sacramento Vegan Burger Battle, serving over 1000 Impossible burgers with 4 different preparation options to choose from during the June event (*over 1400 total including their house-made falafel burger!)